Much of the world’s energy demands continue to depend on fossil fuels. However, mounting environmental concerns and decarbonisation efforts have propelled the development of sustainable processes to produce chemicals, fuels and materials from renewable biological resources. Biotechnology has been making strides and could soon help address a range of global problems, such as climate change, ageing societies, food security, energy security and infectious diseases. Sang Yup Lee is Dean and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. He is also a pioneering leader in metabolic engineering, a technology used to redesign bacteria to produce valuable compounds such as biofuels and medicines. As chair of the World Econo mic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biotechnology he is a strong advocate for greater research to improve biotechnological applications and the need for public dialogue to map the associated risks and solutions. At Falling Walls, Sang Yup will explain how metabolic engineering can be harnessed to turn renewable biomass into many of the chemicals, fuels and materials we have come to rely on, a step that will reduce our heavy dependence on fossil oil and take us closer to the end of the petrochemical era.